- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2016

Anne Arundel County officials are pushing back over a Maryland school district policy that prohibits schools from notifying parents if their daughters are sleeping in the same area with transgender males on overnight field trips.

County Executive Steven R. Schuh sent a letter on Wednesday to Anne Arundel Board of Education President Stacy Korbelak asking her to reconsider the policy.

“We would like to take this opportunity to express our concerns regarding the manner in which the Board of Education is implementing its non-discrimination policy as it applies to gender identity and transgender students,” Mr. Schuh, writing with education officer Amalie E. Brandenburg, said in the letter on Wednesday.

Mr. Schuh drew a distinction between “reasonable” and “extreme” accommodations for students facing “special challenges.”

On the “extreme” end, he listed “sleeping in overnight field-trip sleeping arrangements that do not comport with a person’s biological gender, participating on single-sex athletic teams that do not comport with a person’s biological gender, and using public, single-sex bathrooms or locker rooms that do not comport with a person’s biological gender.”

He said there comes a point when “accommodations begin to affect negatively the rights and educational experiences of other students in our County.”

The letter came in response to an Anne Arundel training video posted online in July instructing teachers and administrators not to tell parents if their daughters are sleeping in the same area as transgender males on overnight field trips.

“They don’t want to sleep in a room by themselves, they want to sleep with the rest of the females, so what do we do?” Bob Mosier, chief communications officer for the district, said in the video published on July 12. “And the answer is they sleep with the females. That’s not the easy answer; it’s the right answer.

“And in some cases it’s going to cause issues, because … the private information piece doesn’t allow you to share that with parents of all of the other campers,” he said. “Right? So that’s difficult.”

The letter also follows a set of guidelines sent by the Anne Arundel County school system to principals and administrators last week regarding how to accommodate transgender students.

“Students participating in overnight field trips and camps shall have access to facilities that correspond to their outwardly and consistently expressed gender identity,” the handbook says.

“Any student who is uncomfortable sharing a common sleeping area, shower, bathroom, etc. or who has a need for increased privacy, regardless of the reason, shall, upon the student’s request, be provided with a designated safe and non-stigmatizing alternative,” it continues.

Mr. Mosier said the letter reveals the county executive’s “fear” of transgender students.

“The single goal of our school system is to elevate all students and eliminate all gaps, and it is clear from their letter that the county executive and his education officer simply don’t believe that all means all,” Mr. Mosier told The Washington Times in a statement. “They would arbitrarily segregate a group of students, when our mission is — and must — be to support every single one of our students. We have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to do so.”

Anne Arundel’s policy toward transgender students was enacted before President Obama issued an edict in May compelling public schools nationwide to regulate sex-specific intimate facilities on the basis of gender identity.

Noncompliant schools risked losing millions in federal education funding, but a federal judge in Texas halted the order nationwide last month, saying the administration failed to go through proper rule-making procedures, including notice and comment.

The order came on the heels of a North Carolina law regulating intimate public facilities on the basis of biological sex. The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against North Carolina over the law, arguing it violates Title IX and other federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of sex.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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